Derby has contributed to the aviation history of Australia since the first days of Norman Brearly's West Australian Airways.
On 9th August 1922, a site for the Derby airport was selected. This site, now the aircraft aerodrome near town, met the demands of aviation for the next 68 years. For a number of years the salt marsh adjacent to the town was used as a convenient airstrip provided the tide was out!
In 1938 the introduction of a United Kingdom to Darwin flying boat service and a land plane link from Darwin to Sydney began. A through route from Darwin to Perth was established by MacRobertson Miller Aviation Co (MMA), which had taken over from Western Australian Airways in 1934.
In May 1941 an Advanced Operational Base was established by the RAAF and the aerodrome came under military control. It became an important base for Allied operations when Japan entered the war and made a series of attacks to the North West, including an air raid on Derby and the devastating attack on Broome.
Drama has been part of Derby's aviation history with events such as the downing of the Southern Cross at Glenelg River north of Derby on the 30th March 1929, flown by Kingsford Smith. This became known as the Coffee Royal Affair, as it was speculated, and later disproved, that Kingsford Smith had staged the forced landing as a publicity stunt.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Victorian Section) was incorporated on 23rd August 1934. It provided an essential service that continues today, with modern aircraft servicing all the Kimberley from the airport and now administered by RFDS (Western Operations).
In 1989, civil operations were shifted to the Curtin Civil Terminal at Curtin RAAF Base, and the local airport reduced to light aircraft status on 1 July 1989.
Since then, all civil operations have returned to Derby Airport and services include Regular Public Transport (RPT, Charter and Royal Flying Doctor Service operations.
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